NEW ULM - There were so many shifts of momentum in Thursday's Tomahawk Conference volleyball match between New Ulm Cathedral and Gibbon-Fairfax-Winthrop that there was no possible way to predict how it was going to turn out.
In the end, the Thunderbirds held the momentum at the crucial moment as they rallied from a 2-1 deficit to win the match by scores of 23-25, 25-20, 25-27, 25-21, 15-7.
"At the beginning we had a rough start, but at the end we stuck to it, we talked, and we communicated and we acted like a team, and I think that's what brought us a win," GFW junior Erin McDurmont said. "I like to think of us as a clutch team. We kind of always stay positive and stay up and active, and we used our motivation to win [the final two sets]."
Staff photo by Steve Muscatello
Gibbon-Fairfax-Winthrop’s Katelyn Seehafer (5) attempts to block a spike from New Ulm Cathedral’s Kristin Mohr (9) during the first game Thursday at CHS.
The match was neck-and-neck right from the beginning of the first set, with neither team holding a lead of greater than three points until a 10-point service run by the Greyhounds' Lisa Helget that gave the home side a 23-15 advantage.
GFW countered with a six-point run to cut Cathedral's lead to 23-21, but a kill by MacKinnon Ehlenz set up set point for the Greyhounds. GFW followed with kills by Edie Beranek and McDurmont, but Kristin Mohr came through with a kill off the top of the net to give the Greyhounds the first set.
The second set opened with the two teams trading points until the score was 9-9, but a five-point service run by the Thunderbirds' Lexi Jensen (two aces) provided her team with some separation, sparking a 14-4 run for GFW.
With GFW ahead 23-13, the Greyhounds mounted a 7-1 run to set up a tense finish to the set, but a kill by McDurmont sealed the set for the Thunderbirds and tied the match at 1-1.
GFW broke a 6-6 tie in the third set to take a lead that extended to as many as six points, but Cathedral rallied to pull back level at 20-20.
The set ended in dramatic fashion, with a kill by Beranek setting up set point for the Thunderbirds at 24-23, but Mohr followed with two straight kills and brought up set point for the Greyhounds with another kill, which Helget converted with a kill that hit the GFW block and dropped straight down.
"This whole match just shows what our team is about and how we can compete with anybody, even those that are in the top of the conference," Helget said. "It shows that we never give up at all."
Once again, the fourth set saw the teams tied midway through, this time at 11-11, but from that point GFW took a lead that it didn't give back.
The Greyhounds closed a 20-12 deficit to 22-20, but the Thunderbirds finished the set strong to tie the match at 2-2.
The fifth set began well for Cathedral, with Helget earning kills on two of the set's first three points, but GFW's Morgan Wenninger earned three kills over a four-point run that gave the Thunderbirds a 5-2 lead.
The visitors managed to stretch their lead to 9-3 after a combined ace block by Beranek and Breanna Ahlers, with that margin staying pretty much the same until the match ended on a hit by Helget that sailed long.
"We haven't had to play a five-set match yet this season, that was nice to see that we could come out on top," GFW head coach Chris Wortz said. "It gives them some more confidence knowing that no matter how far you're down, you can always come back and win."
McDurmont led GFW's attack with 20 kills, with Wenninger (22 set assists, two service aces, 16 digs) and Beranek (four blocks, 16 digs) adding 15 and 11 kills, respectively.
Also making strong contributions for the Thunderbirds were Sydney Fromm (25 set assists, 17 digs) Katelyn Seehafer (three service aces, four blocks), Ahlers (seven blocks) and Eve Bleick (18 digs).
Cathedral was led by Helget (14 kills, four service aces, 15 digs), Mohr (16 kills, 15 digs, two ace blocks), Ehlenz (11 kills, 18 digs, one ace), Paige Pautzke (17 digs, 46 set assists) and Tori Zanke (10 digs).
"We played some great volleyball tonight," Cathedral head coach Stef Dietz said. "We passed well, we hit well, we served well - we did everything that we needed to do except get that win. I'm very proud of our girls, we've come a long way."
The Thunderbirds (10-2, 4-0) will play at the Sibley East Tournament on Saturday. Cathedral (4-7, 0-4) will play at the Truman Tournament on Saturday.